The always facinating #whatacooljob interview as VP and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google.
Research at Google: You’re Google’s Chief Internet Evangelist. How did you come by this title and what does it mean?
Vint: Chief Internet Evangelist was actually suggested by Eric Schmidt, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. I had requested the title Archduke, but they pointed out that Archduke Ferdinand of Austria had been assassinated leading into WWI, so that wouldn’t do. On the surface, it means I’m responsible for getting more Internet out there; our business model works better when a greater number of people can access our services and products.
R@G: Can you tell us more about what you do as Chief Internet Evangelist?
Vint: The job itself is a mix of policy and technology. For example, I review patents for licensing and potential acquisitions. Part of the challenge is to figure out if proposals to buy companies or license patents are in our interest and to whom I should direct such offers. Internet governance is another policy issue I’m involved in. I recently testified before the House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee on Internet Governance and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in an effort to protect freedom of speech and prevent restrictions on the open internet (https://docs.google.com/a/google.com/file/d/0BwxyRPFduTN2Y0d4bDN0YmotbVk/edit?pli=1).
R@G: What is it like being an active public face for Google in the Internet world. Got any good stories for us?
Vint: The Internet world is pretty expansive. I spend a lot of time on campuses all over the world talking to professors and students about unsolved research problems. In August 2010, I was giving a talk in Moscow, and was asked 4 times in public about my religious beliefs. I wasn’t sure how to respond, but given that many of the people present were sure to be Eastern Orthodox, I decided to explain that I’m "Geek Orthodox."
R@G: That’s funny! Apart from campus visits, what other rituals does being “Geek Orthodox” entail?
Vint: I attend and give talks at many events within the broader Internet community. I recently participated at the World Science Festival in New York City in a program titled “Internet Everywhere: The Future of History’s Most Disruptive Technology” (http://worldsciencefestival.com/webcasts/internet_everywhere). We discussed among other things what it will take to get the roughly 4 billion people in the world not yet online, online, and what big challenges are in store for the future of the Internet.
R@G: What are some of these big challenges?
Vint: Getting infrastructure in place is certainly among the biggest as is getting capable parties to invest in the technology. Australia, for example, has decided to invest in a national scale fiber network, which is a hugely important decision. New Zealand is also embarking on a national broadband plan. Here in the states, Internet access is highly variable and there’s not much in the way of facilities-based competition. That’s one of the reasons Google is implementing a fiber network in Kansas City. Getting major Internet service providers (ISPs), home networking equipment manufacturers, and web companies around the world to permanently enable IPv6 for their products and services is another major challenge we will face, and is something I’m personally pushing very heavily.
R@G: What is IPv6 and why is its implementation so important?
Vint: IPv6 is the successor to the current Internet Protocol, IPv4. Its permanent deployment, which officially began on June 6, will sustain the continued growth of the Internet - it can support over 340 trillion, trillion, trillion IP addresses, versus the 2^32 addresses (4.3B) supported by IPv4. In the past, network access translation boxes have been used to artificially expand address space available, causing end-to-end peering devices to have to rendezvous at a third point. This makes the Internet brittle. With the introduction of IPv6, every device on the Internet can have a unique address, leading to much easier communication between devices, and restoring the freedom and flexibility of the original Internet design.
R@G: What needs to happen for the transition from IPv4 to IPv6 to fully take place?
Vint: Users shouldn’t notice any change as IPv6 addresses are added to existing IPv4 addresses because we all use domain names and not numbers. Internet service providers and other vested parties need to commit to implementing and leaving IPv6 up and running although problems may be exposed: router equipment at home might not know what IPv6 is, people that make devices need to be prepared to operate with both protocols, there may be problems on the server side and there will be a long period of time when both address formats will be used at the same time.
R@G: What will be accomplished when IPv6 becomes the singular address format used?
Vint: We will start to see an increasing amount of direct device interaction. IPv6 will create a uniform platform that will encourage the development of new applications, and the augmentation of the addressing system will allow for expansion. This will usher in the “Internet of things,” meaning a network in which all sorts of devices can communicate with each other: mobile devices, laptops, refrigerators, appliances, automobiles, etc. Every time you create standardized interfaces, you open the door to 3rd party services and products. With IPv6, for instance, you might have 3rd parties running applications on your behalf, for example managing the content of your entertainment devices.
R@G: In addition to championing IPv6, you were recently elected President of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). How will you measure success in this role?
Vint: I want to point out that I am not the first Googler to be elected President of the ACM. Stu Feldman in the New York office held the position from 2006-2008. I will consider my leadership to have been a success if I am able to increase membership, internationalize and expand the capabilities of the digital library, make resources such as Google Scholar more extensive, and reduce the cost of accessing publications and other services.
R@G: Are there any other projects you’re particularly interested in or passionate about?
Vint: The interplanetary expansion of the Internet, a project I helped to launch while at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is something I stay closely connected to. The team developed the Bundle Protocol to compensate for disruptions in communication over distances on the scale of our solar system resulting from celestial motion, planetary rotation, and variable delays resulting from over such large distances despite the speed of light. The Bundle Protocol is an example of Delay and Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN). These types of protocols are now in use on the Mars Rover and on board the EPOXI, which has met two comets over the past five years. The unfolding of the interplanetary Internet is happening mission by mission; it's currently being standardized by the Consultative Committee of Space Data Communications to ensure communication compatibility between spacecraft.
R@G: What’s on the horizon (pardon the pun) for the future of the interplanetary Internet?
Vint: The future is the interstellar Internet: fault-tolerant communication for exploration of the galaxy. Our nearest neighbor is the Alpha Centauri system, 4.4 light years away. The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has given a grant to a consortium led by Mae Jemison (a former astronaut), the ICARUS Interstellar and the Foundation for Enterprise Excellence to study and design a spacecraft to reach nearby stars within 100 years. Present propulsion systems would take 65,000 years to get to Alpha Centauri, so there is some serious work to be done! We will need the interplanetary backbone to build a synthetic aperture receiving system to receive signals from such galaxy-roving spacecraft. is Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist of Google. He’s responsible for identifying new enabling technologies to support the development of advanced, Internet-based products and services from Google and representing us in the Internet world. We sat down with him to learn what being one of the "Father's of the Internet" is all about:
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